Archive for April, 2017

Most Common Productivity Killers in the Workplace – Week 1

This week we return to our blog to explore the most common productivity killers in the workplace.

Data recently released by Pulp PR broke it down to four main things that today’s offices are unfortunately too full of. At Frontier Research we too have found ourselves grappling with these issues as we try to manage our resources in the most effective manner.

The following will hopefully set out some useful best practices and our experiences when it comes to key productivity killers at work.

 

  1. Meetings and conference calls.

The study found that an average person spends up to 5.6 hours in meetings per week and according to a 2012 www.salary.com survey 47 per cent of respondents said that meetings were the biggest waste of time at the office.

37 Signals, the web design company and a leader in workplace innovations with bestselling books on the subject, believes that there’s nothing more toxic to productivity than a meeting. Here are a few reasons they give:

Meetings break your work day into small, incoherent pieces that disrupt your natural workflow. They’re usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things (like a piece of code or some interface design), they usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute, they often contain at least one person who inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense, they drift off-subject easier than a Chicago cab in heavy snow, they frequently have agendas so vague nobody is really sure what they are about, they require thorough preparation that people rarely do anyway.

For those times when you absolutely must have a meeting (this should be a rare event), 37 Signals recommends these simple rules: Set a 30-minute timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period. Invite as few people as possible. Never have a meeting without a clear agenda (excerpts from 37 Signals’ ‘Getting Real’).

At Frontier Research, we recently took steps to cut down on our meetings, we now only have two hours of dedicated meeting time per week called ‘cooking time’; two hours on one working day in which we try to meet and finish discussing all strategy and other matters that we need to talk about for the week. At other times we like to keep meetings to a necessary minimum. Individual teams decide how much meeting time they need, and also decide how much time individual members need to be at office for the week. Overall we’re finding the exercise quite productive so far. Having just two hours a week forces us to focus more strongly on the things we need to get done.

  1. Surfing the Internet.

64 per cent of employees visit non-work related websites everyday and 3 out of 4 employees use Facebook at work, spending an average of one hour per day on the social networking site. The study estimates that web surfing at work costs businesses a whopping US$200 billion every year.

At Frontier we usually find that a free-reign in terms of Internet usage yields good results since we operate on a task basis, and empower employees to make best use of their times. We educate them on tools to better manage their work and social media use (and abuse) such as browser plug-ins that will allow you to make your own decision about what sites to block and for how long.

The Internet is almost an extension of the brain to the ‘millennial’ i.e. the new generation. And companies using policies of censorship can sometimes be perceived as being disrespectful and unaware of the ‘new norm’ of how things are done. Perhaps a dialogue as opposed to an autocratic approach to collectively managing Internet use in the office may yield better results.

 

That’s it for this week! Tune in next time when we run through two more productivity killer in the workplace!

For more, visit our blog.

Catch up on your favorite Friday Focus in our Archives page!

The Global Economy in March

Global markets in March were characterized by the impact of the US Federal Reserve (Fed) rate hike, the stalling of the ‘Trump trade’ as healthcare reforms failed in the US Congress and the continuing inflows to Emerging Markets. While the rate hike by the Fed was much anticipated by the markets, it turned out to be less hawkish than expected. Despite the positive US economic data, the Fed retained its outlook at two more rate hikes for 2017.

Emerging Markets ended the first quarter on a high note with sovereign bond sales rising to a record $69.6bn, according to Dealogic, a global research firm. The net value of emerging market fixed income debt held by investment funds also rose to a record of about $350bn at the end of March, according to research group EPFR. The MSCI Emerging Market stock index is up 11.4% the first three months of the year, its strongest quarter since the start of 2012. A weaker dollar also helped emerging market currencies to record their second best quarter since 2012. The data illustrates how investor sentiment has stabilised since the early weeks of President Trump’s tenure in the White House, when his protectionist policies sparked an emerging market sell-off.

The policy promises of President Trump have involved tax cuts and an economic stimulus package that drove the ‘Trump-trade’ –  the post-election rally in US equities. However, the last month saw that rally slowing down over doubts of the administration’s ability to find support in the legislature to push through such policies. The doubts were heightened by the failure in Congress of the healthcare bill, meant to replace ‘Obamacare’.

The post-election US equity rally driven by the new administration’s promises on tax cuts and economic stimulus slowed down in March. The slowdown came as the failure in passing the new healthcare bill in the Congress cast doubt over the administration’s ability in delivering on these promised stimulus.

Elections proved to be positive for markets in March, with the ruling party managing to hold off populist competition for first place at the Dutch elections and Modi’s BJP managing to win overwhelmingly at the Uttar Pradesh state elections. Markets were relieved by not having to deal with another populist win in the West, while celebrating the confirmation of PM Modi’s political capital for economic reforms by accelerating inflows to Indian stocks and bonds. However, last year’s Brexit vote returned to headlines as the British PM officially triggered the two-year process of leaving the EU on the 29th of March, as promised.

Oil prices reversed some of the gains made since the last quarter of 2016, even bringing to question whether it has sufficient support to stay inside the $50 mark. The fall in prices was mainly driven by an increase in US oil production, which offset the effects of the OPEC’s production limitations. The downward pressure on prices has prompted the OPEC to consider extending the limitations beyond June. This helped prices settle within a $50 to $53 range by month end.

Everything You Thought You Knew About Competition is Wrong

Many economists view monopolies in a negative light and they do deserve their bad reputation, but only in a world that never changes.

This week, in another installment from our blog, we take a look at how being a monopoly can mean shifting paradigms and creating true innovation!

 

When we look at competition we look at our clients’ share of mind. All clients have limits in budgets and resources, and it is these resources we compete for. Our job is to create enough value so that our clients still feel justified to work with us. That being said, we are strong believers in innovation, and continuous paradigm shifts that not only tries to beat the competition, but also to go where no competition exists.

Peter Thiel recently called this habit an instance of being a monopoly. And we fully agree. Monopolies are traditionally cast in the mold of cronyist economic bullies, but Thiel’s definition adds a refreshing new perspective to the word; true monopolies are companies that keep transcending the reach of traditional markets through continuous innovation:

“Most of us are busy making horizontal progress. We are competing—trying to better or make incremental improvements to what already exists. Certainly there is a value in this, but it leads to the creation of commodity businesses. Thiel recommends: avoid competition as much as possible. Instead, be a monopoly. Monopolies occur when some is doing something no one else is doing. “Monopolies deserve their bad reputation—but only in a world where nothing changes….Creative monopolists give customers more choices by adding entirely new categories of abundance to the world.”

To make a finer point, Thiel writes: “Every business is successful exactly to the extent that it does something others cannot. Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.”

So why are economists obsessed with competition as an ideal state? It is a relic of history. Economists copied their mathematics from the work of 19th-century physicists: They see individuals and businesses as interchangeable atoms, not as unique creators. Their theories describe an equilibrium state of perfect competition because that is what’s easy to model, not because it represents the best of business.

Like Peter Thiel we like to ask ourselves the question; ‘what valuable products/services are not being offered?’. This is the strategic ethic that has driven us since our inception, and as the market changed around us, we have so far been able to keep expanding into new areas, and hope to keep doing so.

 

So, leave the competition to your competitors. Strive to be a creative monopoly and create vertical progress!

For more like this, visit our blog.

Catch up on your favorite Friday Focus in our Archives page!